House Dem: Reassess airport security after Calif. stowaway

A House Democrat is requesting a "nationwide assessment of airport perimeter security" after a teenage stowaway was discovered on a flight from San Jose to Hawaii on Monday.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said the stowaway incident, which involved a 16-year-old bold who snuck into the landing gear of an airplane, showed there were gaps in airport security beyond the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) passenger checkpoints. 

"In September 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on our nation’s airports and their perimeter security needs. Since then, a number of high-profile perimeter security breaches have occurred at airports across the nation," Swalwell wrote in a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro that was released on Tuesday.

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Swalwell listed a series of incidents were stowaways died because of a lack of oxygen and cold temperatures at the normal altitude of commercial flights, including another 16-year-old who was discovered hiding outside a flight from Charlotte Douglass International Airport when it landed at Boston's Logan International Airport in 2012.

The 2012 stowaway died during the flight he was attempting to hide on, unlike Monday's incident where the teenager survived.

Swalwell said in his letter that there were gaps in airport runaway security that were discovered by the GAO in 2009 that have still not been addressed. 

"In the 2009 report, GAO determined that TSA had not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment based on assessments of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences, as required by DHS’ National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP)," he wrote. "GAO further reported that without a full depiction of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences, an organization’s ability to establish priorities and make cost-effective security decisions is limited.

"As a result, GAO recommended that TSA develop a comprehensive risk assessment, along with milestones for completing the assessment," Swalwell continued."DHS concurred with GAO’s recommendation and informed GAO that it would include an assessment of airport perimeter and access control security risks as part of a comprehensive assessment for the transportation sector—the Transportation Sector Security Risk Assessment (TSSRA).  The TSSRA, published in July 2010, included an assessment of various risk-based scenarios related to airport perimeter security but did not consider the potential vulnerabilities of airports to an insider attack—the insider threat—which it recognized as a significant issue.  To that end, GAO considers its recommendation unresolved."